Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

July 28, 2013

George Weeks: Bipartisan stand for Great Lakes

Michigan lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill last week urged Congress and the Obama Administration to strengthen efforts on behalf of the Great Lakes.

Also, Michigan Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), a bipartisan champion for the Great Lakes, in contending that the feds are falling short on the critical issue of the advance of Asian carp toward the lakes.

While MLCV welcomed the administration’s new $50 million short-term plan to thwart the carp from entering the Great Lakes, it said in an under statement that “a long-term solution to keeping the invasive species from decimating our region’s environment and economy is still at bay.

“The plan calls for an array of methods to strengthen defenses but does not enforce full separation of waterways.”

West Michigan LCV Director Patty Birkholz, who as a 1997-2002 GOP state representative from Allegan County was an effective environmental advocate, said:

“Invasive species pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes Region’s economy, which is the fourth largest in the world. This plan includes many preventative measures to address Asian Carp looming in neighboring waterways, but if we want a barrier that holds, we must completely separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basi

Schuette, who like Democrat Frank Kelley and Republican Mike Cox before him has been a stout defender of Michigan’s Great Lakes interests, was more pointed in his criticism of the federal stop-gap plan that includes electronic barriers and water cannons. Contending that any plan that falls short of full separation leaves Michigan and the Midwest at risk to severe economic ecological damage, he said:

“Playing Russian Roulette with stun guns and water cannons is simply too risky when it comes to protecting our $7 billion Great Lakes fishery. For every family in Michigan who takes summer fishing trips, to those who enjoy a peaceful boat ride or have a job dependent on Michigan’s tourism trade, I simply am not willing to stand by and wait for Asian carp to invade Michigan waters. We must act right away to slam the door shut on the Mississippi River basin.”

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